Dance Rhapsody (1908) [18:22]
Dance Poem (1913) [15:38]
Two Jefferies Poems (1916): The Open Air [7:44]; The Story of My Heart [4:25]
Overture Rebus (1940) [10:38]
Allegro Moderato for string orchestra (1941) [14:47]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Nicholas
rec. 1979. ADD LYRITA SRCD.243 [71:38]
Bridge recordings of 1979, with the LPO and Nicholas Braithwaite
on rhythmically vital form, return to the current of things
in this first class restoration.
Rhapsody will surprise those who think they know “early” Bridge.
The keyword is “sumptuous” and the big arcing sweep of
the writing is saturated with deeply etched romanticism.
Yes, certainly, the elements of Tchaikovskian terpsichorean
writing are strong, vivid and unignorable – the Swan
Lake echoes are very much to the fore – but there is
so much grace and character to the music that these possible
indiscretions are easily forgiven. Perhaps there’s a slightly
disjointed element to the construction of some of the writing
but once again when the ceremonial-brash pages are as vivid
and powerful as these no one’s much counting the loose
1913 Dance Poem is a very different kind of work and
the abrupt conjunction of the two works show the differing
magnetic pulls of Bridge’s compositional compass. Chromaticism
and Debussy are twin influences here and the orchestral writing
is very much more subtly deployed – the instrumentation is
defter and more pertinent. The waltz courses through the
piece and there’s some alluring string tone from the LPO
who play with considerable refinement throughout. This kind
of bold, romantic writing does remind one of sections of
the earlier work but by now we find a greater clarity and
purpose. We end with a little Till Eulenspiegel simper.
programme is arranged chronologically. We can programme the
works any way we like of course but it’s valuable to trace
the lineage in this way to appreciate the developments that
took place in Bridge’s compositions. The 1916 Two Poems are
studies variously in languor and vitality. Both are based
on poems by Richard Jefferies. The Open Air, the first,
evokes “a haze of distance” and this languid pastoral, so
rich, quivering and intense, is balanced by the vibrant excitement
of The Story of my Heart. The
overture Rebus followed toward the end of Bridge’s
life. It’s a sumptuous score, redolent of Elgar in places,
and Strauss in others. The terpsichorean rhythms also hearken
back to the Dance Rhapsody, though the grittier moments
indicate how much Bridge’s had developed. It’s a sophisticated,
satisfying work and it carries a narrative, embodying the
idea of the spreading of a rumour – though it’s probably
best to listen to the work without worrying about that.
final work is the Allegro Moderato
for string orchestra. It derives from the Symphony for Strings that Bridge
left uncompleted at his death. Anthony Pople has completed
this single surviving movement. It’s a big fifteen-minute
span and tightly constructed, highly expressive and admirably
logical in design.
As with a number of these Lyritas, Chandos has since staked
a strong claim in this area of the repertoire. But there’s
room for both approaches, for Hickox’s more equivocal and
less emotive readings, and for Braithwaite’s heavier, more
overtly expressive ones.
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